Venous Insufficiency or back up pressure in the leg veins is a vexing problem. Patients are disturbed because of occasional discomfort as well as the cosmetic appearance of the condition, which starts as skin discoloration and almost inevitably progresses to open wounds.
So what can be done for a patient who has failed elevation, compression, pentoxifylline, and aspirin?
An article published in the British Journal of Dermatology suggested that simvastatin may be a useful tool against venous ulcers. These are superficial irregular shaped wounds usually around the ankles caused by backed up pressure in the leg veins. The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial included 66 patients with venous insufficiency ulcers treated for up to 10 weeks with simvastatin 40 mg/d or placebo. All patients were also advised to make use of compression and elevation, as well as other standard ulcer therapy during the study.
Overall, 90% of patients in the simvastatin group experienced wound healing, compared with only 34% of those in the placebo group, and time to healing was faster in the simvastatin group than in the placebo group.
Venous Ulcers and Simvastatin: Outcomes
Further, in patients with ulcers measuring 5 cm or less, 100% in the simvastatin group experienced wound healing, while only 50% in the placebo group did, and 67% of those with ulcers measuring greater than 5 cm in the simvastatin group experienced wound healing compared with 0% in the placebo group.
What’s the “Take-Home”?
The next step for many of these patients would have been surgical treatments, so I think we can celebrate the fact that we have an agent here that we are very familiar with and that is inexpensive that may make a major difference in healing. Whether statins other than simvastatin might work equally well is unknown, but since the dose and expense of simvastatin are accessible to essentially all of our patients, until further data confirm efficacy of other agents, it’s probably best to stick with simvastatin. This is a game changer.
Evangelista MTP, Casintahan MFA, Villafuerte LL. Simvastatin as a novel therapeutic agent for venous ulcers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 2014;170(5):1151-1157.